Steelers’ first draft under Omar Khan was ‘aggressive’ … and got high marks

PITTSBURGH — In the 11 months since being named Kevin Colbert’s successor, Omar Khan has navigated a series of shrewd moves in his first season as NFL general manager.

But the Steelers’ 2023 draft class is the magnum opus of Khan’s rookie season. Not only did Khan add a heralded offensive tackle to Broderick Jones, but he also methodically checked each of the Steelers’ key needs with value picks and timely trades. Although the final draft results will be played out over the next few seasons, NFL draft analysts have given the Steelers nearly unanimous high marks — including ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., who gave the organization a B-plus. And without a “lightweight” Day 3 with just three picks, Kiper wrote, the Steelers would have earned an A.

“What did they call him, Artist Khan?” Tomlin said on Saturday when asked if he still thought Khan was aggressive. ” I saw that. It’s rather good.

After executing a rare first-round trade — only the fourth in organizational history — to catch Jones, Khan and Tomlin walked into the Steelers offensive line meeting room, which became the conference headquarters of press in a navy blue suit. and tired smiles.

“It was exciting, let me put it this way,” Khan said, describing his first first stint as general manager. “I think anyone watching the draft would probably say there were several moves that were probably unexpected and surprising, and we see those moves around the same time as everyone else. It was an interesting time. been able to come up and do this job.”

Earning three spots in exchange for their first- and fourth-round picks was a good move, Khan said, because “the value was good for us for the trade.”



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It was a smart move, but it was also an example of Khan’s aggressive mindset, even though he hijacked the description on Thursday night.

“I don’t know if I would call myself aggressive,” Khan said with a sheepish smile. “I’m just trying to win a Super Bowl. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

As Khan finished his answer, Tomlin chimed in with his own answer to the question.

“He’s aggressive,” the coach said firmly with a knowing nod.

But Khan wasn’t just aggressive in making moves. He was thoughtful in his approach.

After making trade offers for the No. 32 overall pick, Khan stood by and drafted cornerback Joey Porter Jr. with the first pick of the second round. Later in the day, he added two more players in key positions in DT Keeanu Benton and jumbo Georgia tight end Darnell Washington, who slipped into the draft amid rumors of medical issues.

“We thought very highly of him,” Khan said of Washington. “Honestly, I didn’t expect him to be sitting there. Just our payoff.”

And it’s not just that Khan landed in Washington, that’s how he did it. He traded the Steelers’ original No. 80 spot, giving it to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for numbers 93 and 132 – thus reclaiming the fourth-round pick he gave up to get Jones in the first round.

“When the call came for the return, we just assessed it, and we had a good idea of ​​how many players we had left that we would be interested in, and we got the best player on that list,” Khan said. “And [there was] the opportunity to pick up a fourth, which we had lost. [It] it was going to be a long wait from today if we didn’t have an extra choice. Luckily we got him because we think we have a very good football player in [fourth-round Wisconsin linebacker] Nick Herbig.”

Even with the fourth-round pick reacquired, the Steelers still had a long break between Day 3 picks, a layoff of more than 4.5 hours and 100 picks. When nothing happened for a trade until the fifth or sixth round, Khan used the break to catch his breath after a whirlwind two and a half days.

“[I was] on the phone I got Chick-Fil-A down,” Khan said. “We just talked amongst ourselves, kept strategizing – it was a good opportunity for us to discuss the post-draft process with the signing of some of the free agents. We went back and met and just assessed our list to see where we stood. Next thing you know, we were back in the room and kind of saw where things were shaking. »

He concluded the repechage early Saturday evening with two final selections: CB Cory Trice and OL Spencer Anderson.



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With that, Khan’s first draft class was over.

“It was awesome,” Khan said, describing the experience. “I think the journey to get here has been great since I got the job. It was pretty special. I have a great group of people I’ve done this with, and they’ve worked very hard to this organization. We have a really strong group of people. It’s just exciting. I don’t know if it has completely struck me yet.”

Although Khan, who spent more than two decades with the organization before his promotion to chief executive, was willing to ponder the process, there was nothing to bask in immediately after assembling a solid class. Neither Tomlin nor Khan are particularly sentimental that way, but even without verbal acknowledgment, finishing the 2023 NFL Draft was another milestone in Khan’s tenure, another test seemingly passed with flying colors – even if the final grade won’t come until much later.

“We just have work to do,” Tomlin said. “It’s normal for us. We have been working together for a long time. I don’t know if we hide behind roles and titles. People have opinions. We have work to do. We have information to acquire. process was very similar to what it was in the past.

“I don’t know if I looked at him in a different light because of his position. I don’t know if he looks at himself in a different light. I just think sometimes titles and things of that nature are exaggerated We’ve been working together for a long time and we had a great time this weekend.”

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